Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Noahic Covenant

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6).

After the Flood, Noah brought a sacrifice of every clean animal to God. On the basis of that sacrifice, pointing to the future death of the Son of God for our sins, God reestablished the world and reestablished His covenant with Noah. God promised never again to destroy the world by water, even though men would continue to be sinful (Genesis 8:20–22).

God reiterated the original Adamic covenant to Noah, but made some additions to it, including new responsibilities and privileges to humanity. First, God gave Noah permission to eat meat, just as He had given Adam permission to eat vegetation. Second, just as God had forbidden Adam to eat of one tree, so God had forbidden Noah to drink blood, a prohibition that is reiterated in the new covenant (Genesis 9:3–6, Acts 15:29).

Man was permitted to shed the blood of animals, but not of other men. God told Noah that from this time forth, those who shed the blood of man were to be put to death. This phrase shed blood is not to be taken in the literal sense we think of in the English language, where cutting your finger would be a form of shedding blood. In Hebrew, “shedding blood” is an idiom for killing. (Similarly, we should realize that the “blood of Jesus Christ” refers to His death, not to literal blood. If Jesus had cut His finger in Joseph’s carpenter shop, His blood would not have saved humanity. Jesus actually did not bleed very much on the cross, and He did not die by bleeding to death but by giving up His own spirit.)

The Noahic covenant also shows the biblical basis for civil government. The magistrate has the authority and the duty to exercise capital punishment against murderers. Capital punishment is controversial with some Christians because they see that God places such a great premium on human life. The Bible makes it clear, however, that it is precisely because human life is so valuable that killing a human being can only be punished by death. Man is the image of God, and murder is an attempt to kill God by killing His image. God takes such action seriously and requires that we do as well.

There are more than a dozen capital crimes in the Law given at Mount Sinai. Capital punishment continues to be a matter of great debate in the United States. Watch for news reports covering this issue. Seek to discern the reasoning behind the arguments in comparison to what God says on the issue. Which reasoning guides your thinking?